Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Ugo Bardi's Latest Post on "The Seneca Effect". The Hydrogen Myth

 Ugo Bardi's latest post on "The Seneca Effect" The Hydrogen Myth: Technology and Religion in the Decline of Civilizations  I just started a new blog titled "The Hydrogen Skeptics." It is about the hydrogen economy and hydrogen as a fuel and it is a little technical as a subject. So I thought it was not appropriate to discuss it in a somewhat philosophical blog like "The Seneca Effect." Yet, there are points in common, as I am arguing in this post. Above: the nuclear-powered car "Ford Nucleon", unfortunate technological prodigy of the 1950s, that never was turned into anything [More]

Three Dogmas of Utilitarianism

I think that something very close to utilitarianism is the right moral theory, and most of the standard objections are bunk.  But here are what I take to be three genuine flaws in "orthodox" utilitarianism. (Two can be fixed from within utilitarianism.  One pushes us to accept a slightly different consequentialist view that is no longer strictly speaking utilitarian.)(1) Confusing value with what's valuable.Consider Norcross' "Act Relevance" principle (MBD, p.4):Intrinsic value provides intrinsic reasons for action. That one outcome contains more intrinsic goodness than another is, or at least provides, a reason to act in such a way that the former rather than the latter occurs.I think this is subtly mistaken.  It gives the right extensional verdicts (about how much reason there is for various acts), but for the wrong reason.  The moral reasons stem not from the value-facts themselves, but rather from the value-makers -- the underlying features in virtue of which the outcome contains more value.This is really important for both normative- and meta-ethical reasons.  Normatively: it's important that our reasons to help individuals stem from those concrete individuals themselves, and not just from abstract value-facts. Otherwise, you end up vulnerable to the sorts of "anti-theory" objections raised by Stocker, Williams, etc.  But those objections can be entirely de-fanged by getting this distinction right, at no cost to our core [More]

The Importance of Collective Intelligence in a Sustainable Future

[This is the text of a short - 15 minute talk - I delivered to the Viridian Conference on 17th March 2021. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the Viridian Declaration, which advocates for technological and social reform in order to make the environment sustainable. One aspect of the declaration focuses on the importance of resilient and adaptive social institutions. That’s where I focused my energies for my talk. As with all short talks of this nature, the ideas and arguments here are programmatic and provocative. They are not rigorously defended. I’m fully aware that there are some holes in what I have to say, but I hope it provides food for thought nonetheless. I have changed the title and made some minor updates to this text from the version I used during the actual talk].I am very pleased to be able to talk to you this evening and I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to participate in this exciting and optimistic event. I am a philosopher and ethicist of technology and it is, sadly, rare for me to participate in an event in which people talk positively about the future.In the short time I have with you I want to make an argument, or maybe even a plea: that we need to think carefully, systematically and scientifically about how best to harness human and machine intelligence to solve the ecological, sociological and technological problems we currently face. Indeed, I would argue that thinking systematically and scientifically about how to harness [More]

Earning Faculty Buy-in with SAM (Simplify, Automate and Motivate) Part 2: Automation

As noted in the previous post, I need to write a presentation for an upcoming conference. Here is the second part, on automating assessment. Automation As a matter of psychology, people are more likely to stick to a default inclusion when opting out requires effort. An excellent example of this is retirement savings: when employees [More]